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Is 29 Year Old Jake Gardiner The Only Option For MTL?

July 10, 2019, 4:02 PM ET [382 Comments]
Brandon Smillie
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
With the Hurricanes sacrificing 2 years of ticket revenues to pay for the next 12 months of S Aho’s contract the Habs are forced to move on to the next option to help their hockey club for the upcoming season.

Some issues that need resolution are a offensive minded LD to help with the PP struggles and a top 6 RW for the same reason in addition to rounding out the offense.

The Habs do have some Blue Chips on the way that might surprise next season in Poehling, Kotkaniemi, Suzuki, and Brook but it wouldn’t be wise to count on the contributions of first and second year players to fill top half roster roles.

Kotkaniemi, everyone’s rookie darling from last season, might even be pushed out of his 3rd line C role by the incoming Poehling and I have to wonder if they may try JK on the wing a bit this year to take advantage of his shot while Poehling handles the heavy minutes at Center Ice.

Not knocking Kotkaniemi, but Poehling is more physically mature and has elite potential with his showings in College, World Juniors Tourney, and his stunning NHL debut. I believe Poehling is a lock to begin the season in MTL with Kotkaniemi and training camp will tell if Suzuki is ready for the jump as well.

If this scenario is how the season begins then the Habs will have the best C and LW depth they have had in probably 2 decades and might help mitigate not having a top 6 scorer on the right side aside from future captain Brendan Gallagher. Byron might be given that 2nd line RW role to start, and I don’t mind that at all, but he must protect himself better to stay out of the Dr’s office.

So outside of another gigantic offer sheet or trade I think the forward group might be pretty much set as of now.

With the forwards set we look at that LD situation.

Ben Chiarot was brought in on a team friendly deal and will likely line up with Petry to help stabilize that pair. To me, I see this move as one that allows Petry to roam more freely to push the pace with Chiarot being the stable presence to cover the D.

He reminds me of a Methot type but with more offense and speed, which is nice. I also think that in the final minutes of a game they are winning we will see Chiarot moved up to play with Weber for the final stand.

In the way I’ve described the signing of Chiarot was a solid move and likely what they had hoped they had done with the Alzner signing.

So are the Canadiens in need of an offensive LD to play with Weber and for the PP or will they trust the development of speedster V Mete and hope he can find his next level on offense?

Looking at the UFA options there is really only one player who fits the bill and that is former Toronto Maple Leaf Jake Gardiner.

The 6’2” left shooting D man, who just turned 29 years old, has scored a grand total of 17 goals in the last 3 seasons (226 games). So a shooter he is not, but we all know Weber and Petry are the point trigger men (even if it is predictable).

So would Gardiner’s 108 assists over the last 3 seasons help the PP as well?

Maybe not.

Last season in 62 games Gardiner put up 0 PP goals and 5 PP assists after putting up 1 PP goal and 14 PP assists the year prior in a full 82 game campaign. With the Leafs having 3 of the top offensive players in the game in Matthews, Marner, and Tavares I would have thought Gardiner would have better numbers than 3 G and 27 A last season with 78 shots on goal. He matched his shooting percentage from his previous season a 3.8% as well. He played a healthy 21 mins a game last season, but that was down over a minute from his previous season and we know he has dealt with back injuries.

The rumored price for Gardiner is believed to be in the $7-$8 million range and I would presume he would love a 7 year deal but will likely have to settle on a 5-6 year deal if term is very important to him.

Is that price worth a D man who doesn’t score and could barely contribute on the PP in a contract year? His PDO the last 3 seasons has been above 100 so he’s seeing some puck luck (likely by way of Andersen and the Leafs big 3 up front) and his CF% is a career 51.0 with a FF% of 49.4.

I think it’s fair to presume that Gardiner, in a full 82 game season, is a 5 goal 30 assist player on a far less potent offensive team.

Is that worth Weber money to MTL?

I honestly don’t think so and his back issues aren’t likely to improve with age either. It’s likely why he isn’t signed yet. Being the highest billed D UFA out there and coming off some seasons helped by Toronto’s offense he and his agent have likely dug in their heels for $7+ million a season for at least 5 seasons saying Jake “earned” it.

Someone may pay Gardiner what he demands and that will be a solid kudos for the man and his agent, but I hope it isn’t with Montreal. I would rather see if the newly minted 21 year old Mete can improve on his 13 assist sophomore season (71 games) that saw his ice time increase by over 2 full minutes a game. He took almost as many shots as Gardiner with 65 and his advanced stats are just as good or better as the UFA defenseman.

If the Habs want to add a offensive minded LD this seasons it looks like the only opportunity to do so will be through trade or another offer sheet. The Habs might opt to run with the D corps as it’s currently set and utilize the offense prowess of Weber and Petry and have the left side play strict defense.

Personally, I don’t think Bergevin is finished this offseason but I wonder where the focus will be, forward or defenseman.

Go Habs Go
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